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Orthodox Church leaders blast Russian offensive in Ukraine

February 25, 2022

In a rare break with Moscow, the leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) have denounced the Russian invasion and urged their countrymen to support the Kiev government.

“Defending the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we also appeal to the President of Russia to stop the fratricidal war immediately,” said Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP. Father Mykola Danilevich, a spokesman for the UOC-MP, was more outspoken, saying: ““Putin treacherously attacked our country! We bless everyone for the defense of Ukraine!”

Metropolitan Epiphanius, the leader of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine (OCU)—who has consistently supported Ukrainian independence—was predictably firm in his condemnation of the Russian offensive, which he described as “unprovoked, insidious, and cynical.” He said: “Our common task is to repel the enemy.”

In Moscow, the reaction from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill was carefully worded: “As the Patriarch of All Russia and the primate of a Church whose flock is located in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries, I deeply empathize with everyone affected by this tragedy.”

Until recently, Ukraine’s Orthodox faithful were divided into the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, with only the first canonically recognized by other Orthodox churches. In 2018, the latter two bodies united to form the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who holds a primacy of honor among the Orthodox churches, granted canonical recognition to the OCU in 2019—a decision condemned by the Russian Orthodox Church.

 


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